In a roundabout way, this is about writing!
Yesterday, I babysat for my great-nephew. He’s nineteen months old–his name is Graham, and my nephew named him not in honor of me, but his mother, my sister, Vickie. I sat in the kitchen where DJ and Franci now live with Graham, and it was impossible not to think about the past. I was reading emails when I suddenly had the strange and nostalgic thought that I shouldn’t have been there, and then I thank God that years ago, we never knew where life–and death–would bring us. In a bizarre twist of fate, just a few years ago, my perfectly fine sister and perfectly fine husband died within weeks of one another, my sister from dormant hepatitus, and my brother-in-law of a heart attack seven weeks later. Before that, they had been the usual household, both of them working–my sister still a homemaker, creating meals for the dog that smelled so good that when asked, my brother-in-law would say, when asked what he wanted for breakfast, “Whatever it is that the dog is eating.” I say usual in every way because they weren’t perfect people, they were married young, they bickered, and when she worked fifty hours straight, the house got messy. She was, however, incredible at making it look good by shoving everything into a closet. (Sadly, my whole house looks like her one closet.) We were lucky growing up–I could burn water, did not and do not have a manually creative bone in my body, while Vickie was Martha Stewart in the making. And my brother-in-law . . . well, he was my only brother of any kind, and from the time they married, I was welcome in their home.
My nephew is an only child. Luckily, I was able to have him frequently when he was a child, and vise-versa. DJ kind of had it made in those days. If you wanted companionship, come to my house. When he was sick of too many siblings, he could go home.
Then the unthinkable.
A friend was just having difficulty writing an eulogy for her mom. I know how hard that it–and I emphasize. I couldn’t imagine how any of us would manage when I sat down to write Davis’s after I had just written Vickie’s. And even then, I knew it could be worse. And I knew my sister. She would have said, At least it wasn’t one of the kids, Heather, at least it wasn’t one of the kids.”
This is true, and in my mind, I tell her so.
I have friends who have lost children. There is nothing as agonizing as the loss of a child. It’s not the natural progression, and my heart bleeds for anyone who loses a child.
But, yesterday, sitting where I had sat for years at the desk in her house, I couldn’t help but think about my sister. I wanted to feel her. I wanted to ask her if I was doing okay, if I was messing up. I wanted to see her face when she looked at Graham. I wanted to hear my brother crowing because he’d had a grandson.
I know that my nephew still misses his parents all the time. His Aunt Teresa, other family members and I can try to be there, we can help out. But we’ll just never be his mother, and I know now–they have another baby on the way–that they miss his parents often.
I tried to tell myself that God (and I definitely believe in a supreme being) is kind, and that Vickie somehow sees the baby, and how perfect he is, how he has such an amazing personality. But then, I was caught in a dilemma–if God lets those gone before us see the good, what about the bad? Because, when Vickie grew so horribly sick, I thanked God that my mother and father were dead, that they didn’t have to see the way that she suffered.
So now, getting into the writing part, you’ll find people who will tell you pointedly that ghosts do do this, can’t do this, act this way, or that way. The point is, we don’t know. Not a religion out there has proven that its members have direct contact with God. I know that I write about ghosts because I so desperately want them to exist. Scared ghosts, fun ghosts. I want to know that the dead can be happy. Also, let’s face it–we’re all going to die. But as far as once it happens, your theories–your imaginary choices–are good as mine, or as good as anyone’s. We learn to live with death. We finally come to the time when a person’s name can bring back real laughter remembering a situation, instead of tears. But we miss our loved ones, we never forget them. That’s what makes us special as human beings.
How we portray all these feelings in print is something can help bring us serenity, even laughter. And how we portray them can also bring those same feelings to others.
But how we do so is in each and every heart and soul, and in the unique imagination to be found in every different author’s mind.